A vegetable garden in Englewood. A North Lawndale community pottery center, built by hand from bricks of soil. A colorful outdoor exhibition space in the heart of Woodlawn.
This year, all across Chicago, small architectural oases have popped up in perhaps the most unexpected of places: vacant city-owned lots.
The theme of the fourth installment of the Chicago Architecture Biennial is “The Available City,” and the event is reimagining 10,000-plus vacant lots on the South and West sides as community spaces.
“The city-owned vacant lots are about 13,000, and if you assume a standard lot, that’s about the size of the downtown area,” said David Brown, the Biennial’s artistic director. “That’s really something that can have a very large impact on the residents and the community organizations, but also on the city.”
The Biennial usually is held in the Loop at the Chicago Cultural Center. But with the pandemic still limiting indoor activities, it had to be restructured, Brown said.
Instead, it focused on outdoor spaces in underserved communities, where many vacant lots are located.
The results can be seen in 15 projects
scattered around the city. Each site is designed by international architects and local organizers, who team up to transform those desolate lots. This year, in a first for the Biennial, whatever is built on each site is intended to be permanent.